I haven’t responded to the David Davis resignation to date, because it seemed to me that it was premature to judge. Indeed, it may still be premature, given that he hasn’t even resigned yet, as I understand it, merely announced an intention to do so.
He has tried to present it, of course, as demonstrating that he is a man of principle. It looks to me as though it only proves that he doesn’t think very far ahead. His decision makes sense only if it was to be a proper election, with the other parties putting up candidates, and being prepared to debate the issue. Since they have decided not to play, it has descended into pure farce.
And it was surely obvious to him that ‘not playing’ was a pretty likely reaction by Labour? After all, this was a seat in which Labour had only 6,000 votes in 2005; a poor third place behind the Lib Dems and 17,600 behind the winning Tory. Why on earth should they ever have chosen to play his game? There’s nothing in it for them at all – a hiding to nothing from the outset.
As it is, he looks badly unprepared for this outcome, and hopelessly outmanoeuvred; facing an election against a beauty queen, a raving loony, and a newspaper editor. (The three terms are not necessarily mutually exclusive, by the way). Worse still, he’s managed to open a split in the Tory party, most of whom would have been quite happy to vote for 42 days, or any higher figure that you care to mention, but only voted against because they saw an opportunity to embarrass the Labour Party. He also succeeded in wrong-footing his own leader.
But could we all have got it wrong? Can our brave SAS hero escape from this trap of his own making? Clearly, he has a reason of some sort for the delay between the announcement and the fact of his resignation – could he be playing a more complex game?
Well, here’s a draft statement he could still make:
“When I announced that I would resign and fight a by-election, I suspected that the Labour Party might refuse to contest it, because they’re running scared on the issue. That’s why I delayed between announcing my resignation, and actually resigning. Given the Labour Party’s display of cowardice on the matter, I will not put the loyal electors of my constituency and the taxpayers of Britain to the inconvenience and expense of an election which the Labour Party would deliberately reduce to a farce. The Labour Party have made my point more forcibly than a by-election would. I intend to stay in parliament and continue to contest this issue”.
Alternatively, he could go ahead and make himself look even more ridiculous as he debates terrorism with a beauty queen. And in the fevered atmosphere of a farcical by-election, he might even succeed in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.